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Responses To Betrayal

crying faceI discovered that I had been betrayed by my husband on August 3rd 2012.  That’s just over three years ago.  So, for over three years (1,095 days) I have been navigating my way through a marriage that I have no map for.  I never imagined for one minute, that my lovely husband, with all his boyish charm, would commit adultery.  But he did.  And I have had to accept this because, what other options are there?  “Loving you was like going to war, I never came back the same” (Warsan Shire)

Having my husband commit adultery was worse than I would ever have imagined, and to poach some prose from the acerbic and eloquent PJ O’Rourke, I would say that I have felt like I have confronted an enormous piece of machinery that I can’t comprehend and don’t know how to operate. In fact, I feel like I’m being run through that machinery.  I am wheat, rice and corn being delivered to the Nabisco factory, and I’m going to come out the other end definitely toasted, possibly shredded, and if I believe my husband’s affair can become the best thing that ever happened to me, then maybe even coated with sugar!

As Joan Didion notes in her wonderful book, The Year of Magical Thinking, “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.”  My life changed fast when I read the words on my mobile phone which my husband’s slut decided to send me when he dumped her.  Up until this instant, I had thought that my husband’s increasingly bizarre behaviour was due to some kind of mental breakdown.  A mid-life crisis of sorts.  Once the truth came out, everything that I thought I’d figured out about life unravelled and there I stood, alone, isolated and broken.  How I wish I had known then, what I know now.  Betrayal hurts like hell and it hurts the betrayed spouse more than anyone who hasn’t experienced it can imagine.  The response is visceral.  It is as incapacitating as physical illness and I am sure that it has damaging effects on our health.  The anxiety that arises from the loss of one’s ability to trust or feel safe is all encompassing and impacts upon every aspect of our life. “The ache for home lives inside all of us, to be able to return to our safe place and not to be stressed and burdened by the world.  Home.” (José N Harris)

My response to my husband’s betrayal has been to stay together and work towards a recovery of sorts. My marriage is recovering but it is quite different now.  It would have to be wouldn’t it; I’ve changed and so has my husband so our relationship follows suit.  I’m tougher than I was (I don’t believe that life gets easier or more forgiving, it’s just that we get stronger and more resilient) and husband has joined the ranks of the grown-ups.  I mostly now grieve; for what we both lost by his decision to betray me.  When I realised I’d been deeply betrayed, grief was not part of the initial landscape.  It’s only over time that the fear, anger and frustration have given way to disappointment and disillusionment. We are now a marriage that includes adultery and this will never, never, never change and it will always hurt.  Even though we are growing roots around it, as Byron lyricises “’Tis but as ivy-leaves around the ruined turret wreath,  All green and wildly fresh without, but worn and grey beneath.” 

I do not regret my decision to stay with my husband. From his actions over the past three years I am acutely aware of his remorse for what he did.  His remorse along with his acceptance of responsibility to help me to heal has been the golden glue that has held us together.  I’ve learned that my husband is a flawed human being but this has not stopped me from loving him.  As strange as this may sound I now know that he really loves me.  When I look back at our relationship before any adultery took place he never showed his love in this way.  I guess I wasn’t looking for it and he didn’t feel the need to demonstrate his love.  Or maybe, just maybe, he had no idea just how much he loved me and how his world needed me in it.  The real threat of losing me seems to have removed an emotional blockage in him.  We are not out of the woods yet by any means but I reckon that even with the adultery that we’re dealing with, we may possess a stronger and happier marriage than many, with or without adultery.  But my loss of trust and safety, hopes and dreams must be acknowledged and mourned.    But I share these losses with so many of you.

Here in the blogging world of betrayed wives I have discovered a private cemetery that contains a secret mass grave of shared hopes and dreams and a seemingly worldwide refusal to acknowledge its existence. I read repeatedly of the pain of betrayal both from wives who stay with their betrayer and wives who don’t.  The pain is the same although the responses and remedies as varied as the personalities involved.  Adultery is a tragedy not a sexual activity.

Tragedy in life normally comes with betrayal and compromise – by trading in our integrity and failing to treat life and others in our life with respect and dignity. That’s really where the truest and the most tragic failures in life come from.  They come from making the choice to betray another soul, and in turn, giving up a piece of your own. (José N Harris)

In all of the blogs I read, written by betrayed wives, clear threads of thought link them all together. They all recognise and share the tsunami of the experience of betrayal and irrelevant of whether they’ve stayed or left their husband they all categorically view adultery as WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! They empathise and sympathise with other betrayed wives, knowing the familiar pain first hand.  By being betrayed, we have joined a club and we are all on the same side and all trying to make sense of the non-sense of adultery.  But, are we in a bubble?  I imagined that we were just the women at the top of the iceberg.  I suspected that many many more women were like us, just not writing about it.  But might I be wrong?

You see, I now can’t bear to hear about adultery.  I’m currently reading a biography about an artist I like Georgia O’Keeffe.  Love her work.  Value her individuality and the grace in which she aged.  However, I find out today that her husband was married to someone else whilst embarking on a relationship with her.  Granted it was an unhappy marriage and they were not together as such, but it got me thinking.  Trust me, before I experienced betrayal I would never have given a second thought to his unhappy first wife – but now, it’s become a mental marker for me.  I started to wonder if all betrayed wives would be as sympathetic as me and I found a contradiction immediately.  On my very own adultery doorstep!

You see, Pig Shit is a betrayed wife!!!  She is a woman who has had a husband commit adultery including the time whilst she was giving birth.  They were later divorced.  She has also had a two year relationship with a man end because he ran off with her best friend.  So please, could someone explain why she would CHOOSE to have relationships with married men, hoping that they will leave their wives?  Explain why she would want to text me as soon as my husband dumped her?

What type of response to adultery is this?

Did she not feel the pain that we feel?  Is she one of a few or part of an army of betrayed wives NOT like us who respond to betrayal by making matters worse for others?

Image Credit:  Cry Face by holohololand freedigitalphotos.net

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Why blog about adultery?

funnyIt’s funny don’t you think?

How we blog the pain that we experience from adultery?

What are our motivations?

Is it mostly helpful or might it be destructive?

I’ve been giving some thought to this recently.

I am now just past three years from D-day. THREE YEARS! I can’t believe that I have actually typed this length of time. I remember when I first started exploring adultery beyond my limited but devastating experience and I discovered the book written by Anne Bercht entitled “My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”. It wasn’t just the title that alarmed me (truth be known, I wanted this to be true!) it was that she said it took her two years to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity. I remember the despair I felt. Two years? That long? However, her story did make me face up to the fact that recovery might be a long process and somehow I internalised two years as the magic time frame for me. Unfortunately, two years didn’t do it for me and I remember a depression descending when I realised this. I wasn’t sure if I could carry on with more of the same shit or whether I needed to face the fact that I wasn’t someone who could ‘get over’ the adultery and that I should consider separating from my husband.

I realise that newcomers to the tragedy of adultery will despair at this blog post. The time span for the misery and emotional labour must appear like a void waiting to swallow them up. I know, all I wanted was for the pain to go away, for the triggers to stop igniting my fury and for trust to reappear and our marriage to be ‘normal’ once more. All as quickly as possible. I write to myself today to disabuse myself of any notion of a normal marriage and for any ideas that I had that recovery from adultery was going to be for a short period of time only. It remains a work in progress. However, I also write to myself to say that my hope has paid off. Marital recovery is possible after adultery. It’s a complicated recipe, no two adulteries, like no two marriages are alike, but with the right balance of ingredients it can be achieved. Things are not the same. I will blog about the changes in another post but really, how can we expect to live without change. The only predictable thing about life and love is its unpredictability. I’m sure that my marriage would have changed over the course of the last four years but I may not have been as conscious or as aware of exactly what these changes were. Not like I am now.  I am hyper-sensitive to us.

Without doubt, the stories of other women facing adultery and their courageous blogs have helped me enormously. As have the generous comments and responses offered on mine. In actuality, I think that recognising my specific experience of adultery from within the kaleidoscope range of infidelity and betrayal has helped me keep anchor when I feared that I was adrift in an ocean of pain, anxiety, anger and isolation. For every word written that has resonated with me I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I was encouraged and prompted to write about adultery by the author Isak Dinesen’s claims about life, loss and narrative: “All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.” To her, the explanation of life seemed to be in its melody, its pattern. I’ve certainly looked for patterns myself and blogging has proved to be the perfect medium for me.  However, I wonder if my story needs to be continued to be told or whether it needs to end or whether beginnings and endings and repetitions are all part of the same story. Graham Greene starts his novel ‘The End of The Affair” with the words “A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead”. This sort of sums up my blogging. However, I also recognise a remaining hunger in me with regard to coming to terms with my pain. It is not as raw as it once was and I really do feel that a great deal of healing has occurred but the scars run very very deep and the memory of my husband’s adultery still has the capacity to paralyse my thoughts. So, rightly or wrongly, I continue to blog.

“Sometimes I think that if it were possible to tell a story often enough to make the hurt ease up, to make the words slide down my arms and away from me like water, I would tell that story a thousand times.”  Anita Shreve: The Weight of Water

Image Credit: Smiley Character On Laptop” by njaj freedigitalphotos.net